India COVID cases near 20 million, UK rushes more aid: Live news | Coronavirus pandemic News


With more than 300,000 daily cases reported for nearly two weeks now, India is battling a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed its fragile and under-funded healthcare system.

Hospitals have been filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies have run short and morgues and crematoriums have been swamped.

The eastern state of Odisha and northern industrial state Haryana became the latest to announce new lockdowns, joining New Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal.

Here are the latest updates:

Devastating virus surge spreads impact into India’s politics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been severely criticised over the handling of the COVID surge, which has pushed India’s already fragile and underfunded health system to the brink.

Massive election rallies organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties as well as a giant Hindu festival on the banks of the Ganges may have exacerbated the spread, experts said, adding that new variants could also be increasing cases.

Modi’s party on Sunday suffered a resounding election defeat in a key state, West Bengal, failing to dislodge its firebrand chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. The BJP retained power in northeastern Assam state but lost in two southern states.

While the four states were already stiff election challenges for the BJP apart from the pandemic, analysts say the results weaken Modi’s position as surging infections cripple the health system.

Here’s more from the political front.

Taiwan bars arrivals from India

Taiwan will suspend from Tuesday the entry of people who have been to India over the previous 14 days, Reuters reported Health Minister Chen Shih-chung as saying.

The virus variant first found in India has reached at least 17 countries, including Britain, Iran and Switzerland, spurring several to close their borders to those travelling from India.

Except for Taiwan citizens, all those who had been in India in the prior 14 days would be kept out, Chen said, with the restriction taking effect at midnight. Returning Taiwanese will have to spend 14 days in centralised quarantine facilities, however.

Earlier, Deputy Economy Minister Chen Chern-chyi said the government was considering whether to send an aircraft to evacuate the 150 Taiwanese businesspeople now in India.

Pfizer in talks with India over expedited approval for COVID vaccine

Pfizer is in discussions with the Indian government seeking an “expedited approval pathway” for its COVID-19 vaccine, its CEO Albert Bourla said on LinkedIn, announcing a donation of medicines worth more than $70m, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago,” he said.

“We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country.”

Indonesia finds two cases of Indian COVID variant in Jakarta

Indonesia has recorded two cases of a highly infectious COVID-19 variant first identified in India in the capital Jakarta, the country’s health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

“There were two new mutations that entered. One from India, with two incidents in Jakarta and one from South Africa in Bali,” Budi told a virtual conference. Another official confirmed the two cases were the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India.

Indonesia last week stopped issuing visas for foreigners who had been in India in the previous 14 days.

Expert calls for ‘national stay at home order’

“In my opinion, only a national stay at home order and declaring medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan, said on Twitter.

“The # of active cases is accumulating, not just the daily new cases. Even the reported numbers state there are around 3.5M active cases.”

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact.

Why India’s COVID-19 data is vastly undercounted

As daily case counts soar far beyond what other countries have reported, experts caution the official COVID-19 numbers from the world’s second-most populous country are likely a huge undercount.

But why is India’s data considered inaccurate? Is the data any less accurate than what other nations report? And which numbers give a good indication of the crisis?

Find out here.

Cricket Australia backs UNICEF fundraising drive

Cricket Australia (CA) is making an initial donation of 50,000 Australian dollars ($38,600), matching a donation made by Vice-Captain Pat Cummins last week, as the country’s players union thrown its weight behind a UNICEF Australia fundraising drive to respond to India’s COVID-19 crisis.

“Australians and Indians share a special bond and, for many, our mutual love of cricket is central to that friendship,” CA interim CEO Nick Hockley said in a statement.

“It has been distressing and saddening to learn of the suffering of so many of our Indian sisters and brothers during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and our hearts go out to everyone impacted.”

UNICEF Australia’s India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal is procuring and installing oxygen equipment in hospitals to treat seriously ill patients, providing testing equipment and “supporting acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out”, the charity said.

India reports 368,147 new COVID-19 infections

India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,417.

With 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India’s total coronavirus infections now stand at 19.93 million, while its total fatalities are now at 218,959, according to health ministry data.

UK to send 1,000 more ventilators to India

Britain is rushing to dispatch a further 1,000 ventilators to India to help its struggling healthcare system deal with a surge in coronavirus infections which is killing thousands every day.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised “the UK will always be there for India” as he committed fresh assistance, including advice from NHS staff and health experts Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance.

Johnson made the pledge ahead of a call with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday, arranged to replace a visit to New Delhi which was cancelled as cases spiralled.

The 1,000 ventilators from the UK’s surplus supply are in addition to 200 sent last week, in shipments that also included nearly 500 oxygen concentrators.

India industry body urges curbs to economic activity

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a leading Indian industry body, has urged authorities to take the “strongest national steps” and to curtail economic activity to save lives as the country battles surging coronavirus cases.

Billionaire Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank and CII president, said a “maximal response measure at the highest level is called for to cut the transmission links”, as building healthcare infrastructure will take time.

“At this critical juncture when toll of lives is rising, CII urges the strongest national steps including curtailing economic activity to reduce suffering,” Kotak said in a statement.

Concerned about the economic effect of shutting down the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown. At least 11 states and federal territories have imposed some form of restrictions.

The Indian Express newspaper reported on Sunday that the country’s COVID-19 task force has advised the federal government to impose a national lockdown.

Read more here.

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